In Defense of Social Dancing

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My affair with Social dancing lasted 4 months. Beginners level course in Salsa. The Garden City, Bangalore. I moved on. One particular scene hung on in my memory from those days.

Just one month into learning Salsa and there I was at a Socials, a weekly gathering of salseros to mingle and dance away into night, humbled and impressed by the professionals around me. The place was dark and had a sensuousness about it. Being the amateur that I was, asking a female to dance meant certain embarrassment in-front of an experienced crowd. So there I sat pretending to be occupied drinking beer. And then I saw her. Wearing a knee-length turquoise green dress and sipping onto her glass of whiskey. She had put on a blood red shade of lipstick contrasting beautifully with her unblemished fair skin. She was too perfect to be sitting alone in such a setting. Well the sight of her made me wanna dance. Unlike I thought, asking her to dance was the toughest part. Sweaty palms and ‘Eye of the tiger’ playing in my head. The track changed to a Bachata number. Knowingly smiling at my uncertainty she moved in closer and wrapped her shapely legs around me. Her breath brushing my chin. A fruity scent numbing all other senses. The closeness excited as well as made me recoil a bit. The moves were hers. The lead mine. At the end of the track I blurted out ‘Thanks’ and took her excuse. I never hesitated in asking a girl to dance ever. Neither did I meet her ever again at the Socials.

This was 6 years ago.

In retrospect the reasons for leaving salsa were two fold. One was a flawed sense of morality and the other a forced conformance to the society (Indian Society). The morality in question was of physical intimacy with the opposite sex in a social manner. That explains the ‘recoiling’ at her proximity. The critical elements here were intimacy and social. In an upbringing (hardcore Indian) which stressed on extreme conservatism & reservation in public and in a society intolerant to mingling of the opposite sexes, the elements used together was a gross violation of the moral code. The conformance to society was on account of the attitude of my peers towards the dance form. That of mocking. The fact that its a dance form was met with ridicule in many quarters and was often reduced to a skill to have a chance at picking up chicks. Probably an art form of low quality. And I played along not wanting to alienate them.

I could not have been more wrong. And more coward. While Salsa gave me confidence and a better hold of rhythm, what I offered in return was disloyalty. Let me make amends now.

In the recent years we have seen the moral code being flexed and a collective moderation of tolerance levels through increased interaction of opposite sex, mingling of people from various castes and states, experimentation in cinema and theater with sensitive themes. AIB’s roast and Kiss of Love campaigns are all rays of hope in this muddled landscape of accepted morality. Social dancing can play a critical part in this broadening as it promotes intermingling between diverse groups and increased interaction between the genders. It is high time Social dancing be viewed through a different lens than of physical intimacy and ‘scoring’.

The apathy of society towards social dancing seems more deep-rooted. A society whose social dancing reference would be a dance form called ‘Dandhiya’, where couples dance round and round with sticks on a festive occasion, rooted in religious tradition and originated from a weapons training ritual can accept only so much. Even modern day social dancing in marriages and pubs is mostly limited to vigorous shaking of body, almost animalistic, where grace and intimacy can go kiss a donkey’s arse. And the hypocrites we are, we call Salsa a low quality dance form. A dance form with synchronized movements filled with twists, turns and dips. A dance form which gives you confidence and a pride in your body form. No definition of quality will put Salsa in the ‘low’ folder. If only there was a salsa themed baarat!

I hope I meet her one of these days again. I owe her an apology; and a dance.

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